Something Scary Happened While On the Train to Paris



Our day on Tuesday started quite normally. We awoke at our hotel in Barcelona and walked about 10 minutes to a Metro station for a quick ride to the main train station. Another family would probably have taken a taxi, but that is just what we are used to. Even with a baby in tow, we do it our way.

This story is of course not about our Metro ride over, although Ellie did surprisingly well and didn’t seem bothered or scared which was nice. This story also really isn’t about our train ride up to Paris which did suffer from some delays, but for the most part was alright. It is instead about what happened in Belgium on the same morning.

We found out about the bombings from a Dutch passenger on our train who was traveling to his home in the Netherlands via Paris (and through Brussels). He seemed more annoyed that he would likely be stuck in Paris than he was angry or scared of what had happened. I am not sure what to think about that, but we all react to these types of things differently.

Throughout our journey up to Paris we noticed an increased police presence in all of the train stations. Other than that it was business as usual. We didn’t hear one other person talk about the bombings and no one seemed scared or on edge. It was almost surreal, but then again I sort of felt the same way.

A lot of people know how much I love to travel and even follow me and my family as we globetrot. To be truthful I love “sharing the world” with people in that way, but don’t love the other side of it where they worry about everywhere we go and what we do. Ironically, I never thought anyone would be scared of us going to Paris, but that is seemingly the case.

Back in 2007 when we traveled around the world, we skipped going to Bali because of the bombings there. We did however travel to Guatemala which is known as one of the most dangerous countries in Central America. Does that make any sense? No, not really. We should have gone to both. I learned in Guatemala that the average American’s perception of what is safe is skewed.

When you travel enough, the preconceived notions of what is dangerous and what is not tend to go out of the window. I eventually did go to Bali and totally fell in love. At no point did I feel unsafe. That has also been my experience in just about every place that people have told me to “be safe” when traveling to. (Cough cough Colombia.)

The truth is I am safe, because most of these places are safe. Just like every major Metropolitan area in the United States, other countries and cities have crime. By being vigilant and using common sense, it is fairly easy to stay safe. So safe in fact that I had no issues taking my then six year old son around the world and won’t have any problems bringing my baby.

Sure there are random events such as car accidents, sinkholes and even terrorist bombings. While they shouldn’t have to be accepted as being normal, they are a fact of life. Yes, the random tourist sometimes gets robbed and killed in country ABC, but statistically it happens so rarely. Yes, it happens, but I could also get hit by a car while walking down the street. (Which is something that happens way too regularly in Vegas.)

My point is, we heard some devastating news on the way to Paris. News that made me incredibly sad and was a stark reminder of the struggles our world is dealing with. What it didn’t do was make me scared to travel or scared to discover the world with my family. We will of course always try to be as safe as possible, but I suppose it all leads back to what you think safe is.

Will the events of this week keep me from traveling? Absolutely not. It isn’t just because “if we don’t travel the terrorists win”, but because I believe it is such an important part of my education as a human being and more importantly the education of my children. The world is a vast and amazing place full of amazing, warm and wonderful people. Some of those people were lost a few days ago and that breaks my heart.

Stay safe, but please don’t stop traveling.

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  1. Amen Shawn. We leave for London this afternoon. Gotta keep living or we lose. It’s as simple as that. And I’m sure London(and HTR by extension) will be overrun with security, both overtly and covertly.
    Now as long as I can stay dry…..

  2. A little surreal without doubt. Glad you’re safe.
    Since you mentioned it Cough Cough (Colombia) It’s only one letter but it annoys the living $&@! out of all of us who love her.

  3. We were in Paris during Thanksgiving last year, 10 days after the attacks. We decided to keep our trip after consulting with work colleagues who live there, checking the State Dept. travel advice, etc. We figured (correctly) that there would be an increased police presence and the statistical likelihood of something happening again while we were there was quite small. We arrived at CDG and took an early morning taxi to a rental apartment in the 1st. Ironically, the taxi driver was Muslim (I know because he had a “call to prayer” app on his mobile phone that went off while we were in the car) and he drove right through the Place de la Republique area where all the news vans were setup. It wasn’t scary, though, the driver could not have been nicer. Paris felt safe/secure and a few people expressed thanks that we visited. Example: we let our kids blow off some steam at the small playground behind Notre Dame. An older French man must have overheard my wife and I speaking in English. He came over, wished us happy Thanksgiving, and thanked us for visiting Paris. We had a nice trip and enjoyed low crowd levels (which has also been our past experience visiting in the weeks around Thanksgiving, for what it’s worth). If there had been more events in Paris following the days after Nov. 13 before our departure date, I would have probably cancelled, but the feedback from my Parisian colleagues about the current “on-the-ground” situation and the available information convinced me it was OK to go.

  4. Sean,

    Thank you for this post. I just booked my first trip to Europe (Paris, Hamburg, Berlin). How do I NOT think of the attacks? My mother telling me not to go, seeing everything on the news, it can get in your head. But after a couple days (and buying French Open tickets), I remembered that I’m in this hobby to see and experience extraordinary things. This post just cemented my feelings. THANK YOU!

  5. Ya’ll ‘ keep living ‘, but I’m taking my business anywhere else than Europe. All those cheap airfares, etc are for a reason: people are DONE with Terrorism Tourism. Hopefully the next POTUS will take the lead and world and end this junior varisity team for once and for all.

    • Steve,

      Your post came off quite arrogant to me and the exact reason that America is such an excellent terrorist recruitment tool. Arrogance is not acceptance. And most people do not grow up thinking, gee, I’d like to become a terrorist. No. They don’t.

      People just want to live their lives, be happy, raise their children… it is when people are treated as “the other”, when we exclude them and completely dehumanize them and stereotype an entire population for the violent acts of a few. It is when you say arrogant things, and disrespectful things about OUR President, who has done more to restore America’s good standing in the world through diplomacy, that you have painted yourself as an Ugly American. You injected yourself and became the problem.

      Could you just learn to hold your tongue and be respectful, have a sense of decency and quite acting like the young, dumb, full of c*m jerks that is the stereotypical American? Can you NOT say insensitive things?

      What you said was so offensive to me and I don’t think it has any place on this board, especially after Matt’s thoughtful post. Do you ever think before you speak? No? Then try it.

      When people are desperate for jobs, desperate to be accepted in society as they are, even if their skin is brown, or black, or white, even if they practice a religion that is different than yours, it is when desperation hits, when they cannot get jobs, when they can’t feed their families, when nobody will help or treat them with respect or lend a hand, when people start to feel that they can never be accepted into the social fabric – desperate people make choices they would not have made without desperation. America has quite the share of white male home grown terrorists, but you don’t see the newspapers telling everyone to fear white males…as such, we treat them as humans, realizing many, if not most of them are mentally deranged, but white males are, as a whole, ok dudes.

      Your comment made me so angry. The ignorance and arrogance you spewed in just a few short sentences made me call you out because I can see no other way for you to get the message that you are out of line. Stop being the Ugly American. Try not saying the first arrogant, or even the 50th arrogant thing that comes to your mind.

      Try being a decent human being and be compassionate and leave all the garbage inflammatory words in your head and NEVER speak of them. This is a travel board, NOT a political board.

      Show some respect.


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